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White Oak resident, author raises money for cancer center

| Monday, July 14, 2014, 3:36 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Craig Stephan will take his 2009 Harley Davidson Ultra on a 5,000- mile ride to raise money for cancer research.

Fifteen years ago, Craig and Beth Stephan spent their honeymoon on a cross-country motorcycle trip.

The White Oak couple's trip became part of Craig Stephan's 2010 book “Riding on Empty,” and it started a crusade that will continue next weekend, to further the memory of Craig's mother.

Stephan, 52, has traveled to 49 states, raising money for the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where his late mother Earlene received treatment.

He's still trying to figure out how to get to Hawaii, but on Sunday he'll take off again for the Rockies, on a 5,000-mile ride to New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.

He's raised $2,000 so far and hopes to net $10,000 for cancer research. His suggested pledge remains what it was on his earlier bike-a-thons, a penny a mile.

Still, he said, “Whatever they contribute is more than welcome.”

Stephan wrote “Riding on Empty” to call attention to his mother's fights against cancer and illiteracy.

She went back to college in her late 40s to obtain credentials for spreading literacy in the Pittsburgh area. Her effort included service as an area coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council in McKeesport.

“Riding on Empty” is autobiographical, too, telling of a motorcycle trip Stephan and his wife, Beth, took to the Grand Canyon to mark their second wedding anniversary.

That trip 15 years ago started Craig Stephan on the annual quests across the country.

Since “Riding” was published four years ago, “thousands of copies” have been sold, he said, with a portion of the proceeds going toward cancer research.

Today, Beth Stephan is a pharmacist in West Mifflin and for the past 3½ years Craig Stephan has been a salesman for Jim Shorkey Family Auto Group's North Huntingdon Township Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealership.

“They have been very supportive,” Stephan said of his employer.

“He's one of the top three salespeople in the company,” said general manager Matt Mrdjenovich, whose father-in-law Jim Shorkey's company includes Kia and Mitsubishi dealerships in North Huntingdon and Uniontown, along with the Chrysler Corp. dealership along Route 30.

For the “team,” Mrdjenovich said, “we try to accommodate what is important to them.”

Shorkey's company helped with donations last year when Stephan traveled to Alaska.

“We feel that's a value for having him,” Mrdjenovich said. “It's not all about work. It's about family and enjoying life.”

Craig said his stepson Jordan graduated cum laude this spring from Duquesne University with a degree in international business, finance and French, while his stepson Mitch is a junior at Duquesne, working toward a degree in international intelligence.

Craig's ridingonempty.com website has details about his book and upcoming bike-a-thon to the Rocky Mountain states.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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